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1998 Honda Accord with a rusted out engine cradle - do I have to get rid of it?

I took my car in to the shop to get an oil change and fix a scraping noise from a rear brake (just a bent backing plate), and when I went to pick it up the guy basically advised me to avoid putting any more money into the car as it has severe corrosion on the engine cradle. He went on to tell me to start looking for a new car. Fairly inevitable given its long life (nearly 170k miles) and exposure to harsh winters. Basically most of the front suspension is also in pretty bad condition.
Thing is, I’m a grad student who drives this thing about once a week for <5 miles on average, and I don’t really want to deal with the hassle of replacing my car at the moment. I’d like to get some more input into how long I can keep safely driving it under these conditions.

It’s IMPOSSIBLE to tell…especially without actually seeing the damage.

I surely wouldn’t take the chance.

Engine cradles are made from thick steel, so surface rust isn’t a problem.

But if you can poke holes in the cradle with a screwdriver, then the cradle is rusted out.


I went outside and had a poke around. There doesn’t seem to be much corrosion on it except on the rear passenger side of the frame, where there were some large surface flakes I could just peel off with my finger, certainly no holes or large cracks. I guess I’ll probably call the shop back tomorrow and ask them for more specifics like I should have today.

Apparently it’s a fairly common issue with vintage of Accord due to the placement of the air conditioner compressor.

If that’s all the rust you found, the cradle isn’t rusted out.


Why not find independent shop and get a second opinion.
They might have you stop at the end of the day and they’ll put it up on the rack and do a quick inspection.
This would not take much time and you would be right there. So if they find a problem, they could point it out.

Looks pretty beefy:

Yeah, poke it hard with a screwdriver.

I’m with @Yosemite. Take it for a second opinion. The areas that are most worrisome are the mounting points and suspension bushing brackets. Bad rust here creates a dangerous situation, even if the rest of the cradle looks Ok.

If you have rust problems in thick metal areas, chances are good you have rust everywhere. IMHO, you now have a rust bucket and pumping anymore money into it is lost money. Move on.

My vote is for getting another opinion but offhand, maybe it’s not that bad. Flaking is not necessarily something to worry about as most of that may just be paint peeling due to surface rust.

Given the very light use of the car and being a grad student I’m inclined to say keep it until school is finished and then go from there.

I think if your mechanic told you that the subframe was rusted and offered to fix it for you I would be more suspicious than if he told you not to put any more money into this car.

Think about it, he just asked you to stop giving him money.

The distance or frequency with which you drive your car isn’t really relevant. If it’s broken, it’s broken.

If you’re close to Milwaukee, take a drive. You’ll know in short order if it’s rusted out. You’ll look in the rearview and see your engine in a pothole???

…the guy basically advised me …

Depends a lot on who “the guy” is. If he’s the oil change guy his mechanical expertise is likely pretty limited.

Get a second opinion from another place.

Agree with JayWB. Who exactly is telling you this? What kind of shop is it? You have to consider the source.

Get a second opinion from a qualified mechanic, not another oil change guy. If the rust is just surface rust, you could scrape it clean, prime it and paint it, just be sure you are safely suspending the vehicle on jack stands or ramps.

My 99 Accord had this same problem and it is fairly common on this generation Accord if you live in the snow belt especially. We went in to get the clutch replaced and the front sub-frame under the engine was rotted out. Finding these at reasonable prices is tough and the part alone can run you $500 to $800 before labor. I ended up having the work done and it cost me $2100 for a clutch, a ball joint, and the sub-frame. The car now has 207,000 miles and runs like a champ.